Steve Symms

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Steve Symms
United States Senator
from Idaho
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by Frank Church
Succeeded by Dirk Kempthorne
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Idaho's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by Jim McClure
Succeeded by Larry Craig
Personal details
Born Steven Douglas Symms
(1938-04-23) April 23, 1938 (age 84)
Nampa, Idaho
Nationality United States
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Loretta E. Mathes Fuller
(b. 1939, m.1992)[1]
Frances E. Stockdale[2] Symms (b. 1937)
(m.1959–90, divorce)[3][4]
Children 1 son, 3 daughters[5]
Residence Caldwell
Alma mater University of Idaho, 1960
Profession Agriculture, lobbyist
Religion Methodist[6]
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch US-MarineCorps-Seal.svg U.S. Marine Corps
Years of service 1960–1963
Rank US-O2 insignia.svg First Lieutenant
Battles/wars Cold War

Steven Douglas "Steve" Symms (born April 23, 1938) is a former Republican politician from the U.S. state of Idaho. He served as a four-term congressman (1973–81) and two-term U.S. Senator (1981–93). He took conservative stances on significant issues.[7] He is currently a partner at Parry, Romani, DeConcini & Symms, a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.[8]

Life and career

Symms attended public schools in Canyon County and graduated from Caldwell High School in 1956. He studied horticulture[9] at the University of Idaho in Moscow, where he was a reserve center on the football team[10] and was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity.[11] He graduated in 1960 with a B.S. in agriculture, then served in the U.S. Marines for three years, after which he worked as a private pilot and apple farmer. From 1969–72, he was editor of the newspaper, the Idaho Compass.


In 1972, Symms ran for Congress with a theme tied to his apple farm. He featured a drawing of a big red apple and the slogan, "Take a bite out of big government!" He was elected to the open seat in the U.S. House at age 34 and was re-elected three times, then ran for the U.S. Senate in 1980. Aided by political action committees,[12][13] he unseated four-term incumbent Democrat Frank Church, winning by less than one percent in the Republican landslide.[14] Symms was re-elected in 1986, defeating Democratic Governor John V. Evans in another hard-fought and close election.[15]

Symms chose not to seek a third term in 1992 and was succeeded by the Republican mayor of Boise, Dirk Kempthorne, a future two-term Idaho governor and U.S. Secretary of the Interior. During part of his tenure in the Senate, Symms sat at the Candy desk.[citation needed]

U.S. House elections (Idaho's 1st district): Results 1972–1978
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct
1972 Ed Williams 68,106 44% Steve Symms 85,270 56%
1974 J. Ray Cox 54,001 42% Steve Symms (inc.) 75,404 58%
1976 Ken Pursley 79,662 45% Steve Symms (inc.) 95,833 55%
1978 Roy Truby 57,972 40% Steve Symms (inc.) 86,680 60%
U.S. Senate elections in Idaho (Class III): Results 1980–1986
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1980 Frank Church (inc.) 214,439 49% Steve Symms 218,701 50% Larry Fullmer Libertarian 6,507 1%
1986 John V. Evans 185,066 48% Steve Symms (inc.) 196,958 52%


After leaving the U.S. Senate in 1993, Symms founded Symms, Lehn Associates, Inc., a consulting firm. In January 1999, he partnered with John Haddow and formed Symms & Haddow Associates, a lobbying firm. In January 2001, the firm joined forces with Romano Romani and former Senator Dennis DeConcini of Parry, Romani & DeConcini to form Parry, Romani, DeConcini & Symms.


Prior to his senior year at Idaho, Symms married college sweetheart Frances E. "Fran" Stockdale of Helena, Montana,[16] in August 1959.[2] They had four children, a son and three daughters. Following his re-election in 1986, the couple separated,[5] and their divorce was finalized in 1990.[4] Symms married Loretta Mathes Fuller in 1992,[1] a former aide and later the Deputy Sergeant of Arms of the U.S. Senate.

Symms is a cousin of former Oregon congressman Denny Smith.


Symms was one of several Republican senators who in 1981 called into the White House to express his discontent over the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court; the opposition hinged over the issue of O'Connor's presumed unwillingness to overturn Roe v. Wade.[17]

During the 1988 U.S. presidential election, Symms claimed in a radio interview that a photograph existed from the 1960s showing Kitty Dukakis, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, burning an American flag to protest the Vietnam War. Kitty Dukakis angrily denied the accusation as "totally false and beneath contempt," and Symms later admitted that he could not substantiate it.[18] Nevertheless, the claim became national news, as media outlets began searching for the photograph Symms said he had "heard" about.[19] The flag-burning story was one of several false rumors about Dukakis that circulated during the 1988 campaign. "Mr. Symms's comment was the third time in a few days that prominent Republicans have publicly aired allegations that the Democrats have swiftly rebutted," the New York Times reported.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Mathes Family in America, 538: Loretta Aileen Mathes Fuller". Retrieved March 1, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Symms wants to divorce estranged wife". Idahonian. Moscow. Associated Press. December 6, 1989. p. 12A.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Senator Steve Symms to marry ex-aide". Sarasota-Herald Tribune. April 13, 1991. p. 2A.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dennis, Anita (June 13, 1991). "Fran Symms picks up pieces after divorce". Idahonian. Moscow. Twin Falls Tribune. p. 1A.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Idaho Senator Separates From His Wife". AP News Archive. Associated Press. June 3, 1987. Retrieved March 1, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Idaho teachers attack Symms' voting record". Spokane Chronicle. October 14, 1986. Retrieved August 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Seniors". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1960. p. 318. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Football". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1960. p. 255. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Sigma Nu". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1960. p. 219. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Anti-Church committee goes national". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. July 13, 1979. p. 5C.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Broadside fired at Symms". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. August 8, 1980. p. 8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Symms basks in the glow of hard-won Senate victory". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. November 6, 1980. p. 6A.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Kenyon, Quane (October 28, 1986). "No political truce in Idaho". Spokane Chronicle. Associated Press. p. A4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Seniors". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1959. p. 300. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Greenburg, Jan Crawford. Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court.2007. Penguin Books. p. 222.
  18. AP Editors (August 26, 1988) "Story on Mrs. Dukakis Is Denied by Campaign." New York Times.
  19. Dionne. E.J. Jr. (August 29, 1988) "Political Memo; Accentuating the Positive Can Lead to Nasty Campaign." New York Times. The story read: "This campaign got very rough very early, and Kirk O'Donnell, a senior adviser to Mr. Dukakis, said it was shaping up to be among the most negative recent presidential contests. Pointing a finger at the Bush campaign, he said, 'There's no question that rumor has developed into a new art form in this campaign. He was referring to a recent statement by Senator Steve Symms, Republican of Idaho, who said that he understood there were pictures showing that Kitty Dukakis, the candidate's wife, had burned an American flag. Mrs. Dukakis angrily denied the accusation, and Mr. Symms later acknowledged that he had no proof. But it was on television before he drew back."

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jim McClure
United States House of Representatives, Idaho First Congressional District
January 3, 1973–January 3, 1981
Succeeded by
Larry Craig
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert L. Smith
Republican Party nominee, U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Idaho
1980 (won), 1986 (won)
Succeeded by
Dirk Kempthorne
United States Senate
Preceded by
Frank Church
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Idaho
January 3, 1981–January 5, 1993
Served alongside: Jim McClure, Larry Craig
Succeeded by
Dirk Kempthorne